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    10 Inclusive Workplace Characteristics

    June 25, 2024

    Inclusive workplace characteristics are the result of leaders committed to walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

    Have you ever heard the term “greenwashing”? It basically refers to the practice where brands make false claims about their product’s environmental benefits because they know it will make them more appealing to consumers. 

    It’s a sh*tty marketing tactic to improve their public image and boost sales. But it’s misleading, and honestly dangerous.

    And now businesses are pulling the same stunt with inclusivity (inclusivewashing? is that a word yet?). 

    They might flay a rainbow flag during Pride month, or say they champion diversity, but if their internal policies don’t back up that public display, it’s just for show. It’s not just dishonest and gross; it actually undermines genuine efforts toward true inclusivity and misleads both employees and customers about the company’s real values.

    Creating An Inclusive Workplace is a Strategic Imperative

    Inclusivity in the workplace isn’t just a trendy buzzword; it’s a critical business strategy. Nearly half of all employees report that they’ve faced discrimination at work. Half! And to be honest, that number is probably just the tip of the iceberg. 

    Beyond the obvious moral and ethical issues, this statistic is critical because discrimination can make employees feel undervalued and unsafe, leading to job dissatisfaction and high turnover rates. Companies that aren’t actively putting in the effort to be inclusive at the policy level and as an actively present foundation of their culture risk losing not only talent, but also the trust and respect of their workforce. 

    Empowering Entrepreneurs To Act

    But here’s the beauty of being an entrepreneur:

    You get to decide what’s tolerated in your business, and more importantly, what’s not.

    Maybe you came up in one of those old-school corporate environments where discriminatory comments were brushed off as ‘jokes.’ (ugh, *eye roll*) Well, here’s your chance to break that cycle. You get to create a workplace from the ground up where inclusivity isn’t an afterthought, it’s the foundation.

    Creating a Discrimination-Free Environment

    The foundation of an inclusive workplace is a culture that prioritizes every employee’s well-being and respect first. This involves crafting an environment where team members feel valued and understood, and their success is all about what they bring to the table, nothing more, nothing less.  But an employee-centric culture like this doesn’t just magically happen—it’s shaped by deliberately chosen practices and policies that stand for fairness, equality, and respect.

    Consistency is Key

    For inclusivity to really stick, everything we do in the company needs to consistently show we’re all about equality and respect. It’s this kind of consistency that builds trust. It lets everyone feel secure enough to speak up about any biases or discrimination they might notice, without worrying about negative fallout.

    10 Characteristics of an Inclusive Workplace

    If you’re wondering if your workplace truly embodies your values, here are 10 inclusive workplace characteristics that show your commitment goes beyond mere words and public displays:

    Diverse Representation 

    Take a look at the folks on your team. How diverse are they from each other, and from you? Is there a mix of cultural, racial, gender, and experiential backgrounds? Reflecting on this diversity can be a little uncomfortable, especially if you notice a lack of diversity, but it’s a crucial first step. Building a diverse team takes a conscious effort, and it’s essential work of inclusive leadership.

    But it’s not just about checking off diversity quotas. It’s about bringing together a mix of perspectives that spark creativity, sharpen decision-making, and tackling challenges from every possible angle.

    Equitable Opportunities 

    Who has access to opportunities, big and small, on your team? Promotions, big projects, and perks are on the table for everyone, based on how well they perform and what they can do, not what they look like or who they are.

    This goes beyond leveling the playing field to build a genuine sense of fairness. It encourages loyalty because everyone knows they’re being judged by their true contributions. Plus, it motivates everyone to consistently bring their best effort every day, knowing that their hard work and talents are what truly count.

    Inclusive Communication 

    Does everyone on your team feel like they’re part of the conversation? Recognizing and adapting to different ways people communicate ensures everyone can follow along and contribute, no matter their style or preference. 

    Whether that means offering materials in various formats or using tech that suits different work or learning styles, the goal is to make sure no one misses out on important info and conversations.

    Regular Training and Education

    Ongoing training in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is super important for everyone in your company, from the interns to the CEO. Keeping up with regular training makes sure these key topics stay front and center, helping to weave them into the everyday fabric of your company’s culture.

    Supportive Policies and Practices 

    Creating a safe and inclusive workplace doesn’t just happen by chance; it’s something you need to actively build with really thoughtful policies and practices. At the very least, your policies should keep everyone safe from discrimination and harassment. But if you really want to nail inclusivity, you’ve got to think about the language you use in your policies. Skip the one-size-fits-all templates and go for language that truly reflects and includes the diversity you see, or aspire to see, in your team.

    The Human Rights Campaign provides practical tips for integrating inclusivity directly into your policies, aiming to combat wage disparities among LGBTQ+ workers. But these strategies can be adapted across various identities to promote broader inclusivity in the workplace.

    1. Implement an employment nondiscrimination policy that covers “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” throughout the company.
    2. Adopt transparent pay policies as a means to uncover and address wage disparities.
    3. Offer benefits packages that equally recognize legal spouses and domestic partners, ensuring no discrepancies in benefit allocations.
    4. Conduct yearly evaluations of pay data sorted by sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity to inform strategic decisions, such as developing leadership programs and policies aimed at narrowing the pay gap.

    Empathetic Leadership 

    Leaders in an inclusive workplace are more than just bosses; they’re coaches who truly understand and care about their team members. Empathetic leadership means having open doors and open ears—listening to and genuinely considering employees’ needs and concerns. This type of leadership builds trust and makes employees feel valued, not just as workers but as people.

    Recognition of Unconscious Bias 

    We all have our blind spots. It’s just part of being human. But tackling unconscious bias means we’ve got to keep learning about ourselves and stay aware. When we shine a light on these biases, maybe through training sessions or with help from outside experts, we can begin to fix those imbalances and make our interactions with each other better all around.

    Open and Safe Feedback Mechanisms 

    Your workplace should be a place where everyone feels comfortable speaking their mind without worrying about backlash. It’s crucial to keep those lines of communication wide open, so everyone can share their thoughts, concerns, or ideas. 

    This requires more than just listening. Inclusive leaders are open to being called out on your own mistakes and being willing to correct them, even if they were unintentional.  This kind of transparency doesn’t just help tweak practices and policies, it really empowers everyone to take an active role in shaping the culture they’re a part of.

    Celebration of Differences 

    Every day at work is an opportunity to celebrate all the different cultures, identities, and ideas your team brings to the table. Recognizing various religious and cultural holidays or simply encouraging team members to share their personal stories and experiences helps foster a vibrant and dynamic workplace community.

    Diverse Partnerships, Community Engagement, and Social Responsibility 

    Does your business’s inclusivity extend beyond the office walls (or virtual walls)? Partnerships with other diverse businesses or engaging with your community through team volunteer work underscores your commitment to inclusivity, extending its impact into the broader world.

    How Inclusive Is Your Biz?

    So, how did your business stack up? How many of those key inclusive workplace characteristics are actively present in your business? Remember, the list we’ve discussed isn’t exhaustive. There are plenty more ways to foster an inclusive environment, but if you’ve identified most of these characteristics in your culture and practices, you’re doing great. Ultimately, true inclusivity means showing your team that their uniqueness is valued, not just telling it to the outside world for clout.

    Hopefully this sparks some ideas and motivates you to deepen your commitment to inclusivity. Continue to incorporate these practices into every aspect of your business. Every step you take not only enriches your company culture but also sets a powerful example for others in your industry!


    “Employment Discrimination Statistics Employees Need to Know.” Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., 18 July 2022,

    “Explain Unconscious Bias.” Unconscious Bias Project, Accessed 19 June 2024.

    “The Wage Gap Among LGBTQ Workers in the United States.” Human Rights Campaign, Accessed 19 June 2024.






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